Case by Case: Are Social Security Numbers Discoverable?

Case by Case: Are Social Security Numbers Discoverable?

By Peter M. Dunne. A Social Security Number is discoverable in a personal injury case because it is reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence. Claims of privacy and concerns for identity theft will not bar discovery of a Social Security Number. Zbigniewiwcz v. Sebzda, 58 Misc 3d 1217(A), 94 NYS3d 541 (Erie County 2018). However, the request should properly be in the form of a discovery demand, preferably attached to a demand for authorizations, and not in a Bill of Particulars. The Courts have held that a demand for a Social Security Number in a Bill of Particulars is improper as it does not serve to amplify the pleadings and, instead, it is evidentiary in nature and, thus, more properly made in a discovery demand.  In Kupferberg v. State, 97 Misc. 2d 519 (Ct Cl 1978) the Court stated that the decedent’s Social Security Number was “not material to any element of the causes of action alleged, and would not serve to amplify any aspect of the pleadings. The primary usefulness of the decedent’s Social Security Number is as a tool for acquiring evidence. Since evidence itself is not the proper subject of a Bill of Particulars, a mere device for its acquisition is a fortiori inappropriately requested. Item 17 is therefore stricken.” That being said, it is clear that a claim of privacy cannot bar the discovery of Social Security Numbers in personal injury cases where defendants are able to show that they are necessary or indispensable for defendant to obtain relevant records such as medical records, perform prior claim searches, determine liens, etc.  Zbigniewiwcz v. Sebzda, 58...